I am a self-identified feminist, liberal, pro-immigration left-leaning alumna of City University’s journalism department.
And today, I read the news that the student union of City University – an institution renowned for its media courses – voted to ban certain right-wing newspapers with frustration and dismay.
Let me say right off the bat: when those students argue that papers like the Daily Mail, the Daily Express and the Sun demonise refugees and minorities, that they fan a frenzy of Islamophobia, or that they are “inherently sexist”, I agree.
But because I believe this, I take those papers very, very seriously. I would advise all other City journalists in the making to do the same.
Remember that these papers do not represent the fringe, the niche or the alternative. One of the first things I learnt at City is that the Sun and the Daily Mail are the two most widely-read newspapers in the country.
This means that students voted to ban the news publications that most of their country is reading, even while there are those studying at the university who are ostensibly learning how to produce news for their country.
Some students are even taught by professors who have worked for these papers. They voted in the full knowledge that many City graduates will go on to work for those papers, and even aspire to do so.
The student union argued that this decision is about “opposing fascism and social divisiveness in the UK media”. Opposing fascism, by banning newspapers? Ironic, when one of the most common tools of fascism is media strangulation.
Students, and millennials for that matter, are considered closed-minded, stridently opinionated and locked in their social media echo chambers. What exactly does this vote do, except brutally reinforce that stereotype?
I do have sympathy with their frustration. The point of studying at City’s prestigious journalism department is to learn ethical, accurate, integrity-based reporting. Seeing those papers lying around often seemed like a nauseating contradiction to me.
But this year, more than ever, the media is the subject of intense scrutiny.
The right-wing press have been accused of bias, fake news and misrepresentation and of encouraging painful social division.
The liberal media has had to take a long, hard look at itself and wonder whether they are guilty of perpetuating a limited, "metropolitan elite" view of the world, after failing to predict Brexit or take the threat of Trump seriously.
Part of the reason for the battle between neoliberal progressive globalisation and populist nationalism, is that neither side have really been listening to one another.
Now more than ever, we should all be making a far more concerted effort to do so, but especially journalists. That’s our job.
It’s not our job to silence, or to punish. We are not press regulators, nor politicians, nor lawyers.
If you believe these papers are your enemy, know your enemy. Go and work for those publications and try and improve things from within, or work elsewhere and challenge them from without.
Otherwise, how can you call out an injustice, fight factual inaccuracy and reset damaging narratives if you pretend this type of reporting doesn’t exist?
And most importantly, how do you expect your audience to listen to you, if you won’t listen to them?
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